Bringing art to a sin city

NMA’s latest show celebrates its birth 90 years ago

IMAGE/NEVADA MUSEUM OF ART: Lorenzo Latimer's "The Angora (Indian Rock)," Fallen Leaf Lake, not dated, Watercolor on paper; 16 ¼ x 10 ½ inches. The painting is on loan from a private collection.

The latest exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art, which celebrates its 90th birthday this year, takes a look back at the birth of the city’s longest-existing art institution.

The exhibit, “The Latimer School: Lorenzo Latimer and the Latimer Art Club,” opens July 31 and is scheduled to run through March 27, 2022. The show features more than 100 paintings from the San Francisco-based artist and teacher Lorenzo Latimer, along with works by Nevada artists he mentored.

In 1921, those artists joined together to formally establish the “Latimer Art Club,” the founding volunteer organization of the Nevada Art Gallery, known today as the Nevada Museum of Art. At the time, Nevada was a fixture of national headlines about gambling and quickie divorces. Latimer was part of a group of San Franciscans, mostly women, who spent their summers in a Great Gatsby-like social swirl during the summer months at Fallen Leaf Lake and in Reno.

From club to museum

Latimer and the women who studied painting with him saw a need to build up the  cultural side of Reno.

“Without the Latimer Art Club’s commitment to the visual arts in our region, the Museum wouldn’t be the institution it is today,” said Ann M. Wolfe, the Museum’s Andrea and John C. Deane Family Senior Curator and Deputy Director. “It is fitting to acknowledge the foresight of the Latimer Art Club. Our institution’s unique emphasis on art, nature, landscape, science, and the humanities sets this museum apart from other interdisciplinary art museums and has its roots in the history of the Latimer Art Club,”

Wolfe co-curated the exhibition, with Jack L. Bacon, a Reno-based art consultant and former gallery owner, who specializes in historical Nevada art. The exhibition includes the works of artists Mattie S. Conner, Marguerite Erwin, Dora Groesbeck, Hildegard Herz, Nettie McDonald, Minerva Pierce, Echo Mapes Robinson, Nevada Wilson, and Dolores Samuel Young.

Wolfe Latimer was instrumental into helping the group of notable women rebuild community — something he had already done in San Francisco following the big 1906 earthquake.

En plein air in the Sierra

Latimer first visited Fallen Leaf Lake on the south side of Lake Tahoe in the summer of 1914 to teach en plein air (outdoor) painting classes. In 1916, he was invited by two students to teach a painting class in Reno. He ultimately became a cherished member of the Northern Nevada arts community, returning annually to teach his signature watercolor style to burgeoning artists of the Biggest Little City.

In 1931, the Latimer Art Club was invited by Dr. James Church, art collector Charles Cutts, and other community leaders to join together to incorporate the nonprofit organization known as the Nevada Art Gallery, now the Nevada Museum of Art.

The paintings in the new exhibit depict scenes featuring the Truckee Meadows, Washoe Valley, Lake Tahoe, and Pyramid Lake, works that are foundational to the history of Northern Nevada’s outdoor painting tradition. The Latimer Art Club remains active today, with over 90 members who come together for meetings, workshops, and to paint regularly throughout the area, Wolfe said.

Companion book available

 “To truly understand the art history of our region, we must acknowledge the contributions that the Latimer Art Club has made over the years to enrich the cultural fabric our community,” said Wolfe.

The anniversary exhibition will be accompanied by a lavishly illustrated, 350-page book. The volume features an essay on the history of the Nevada Museum of Art by Wolfe and a biographical essay on Latimer by Alfred C. Harrison, a nineteenth-century painting scholar and art historian with a special emphasis on California art. The book is copublished by Jack Bacon & Company in association with the Museum and is available in the Museum store or for purchase online.

Related events, activities

The “Latimer School: Lorenzo Latimer and the Latimer Art Club” opens July 31 and will run through March 27, 2022.

Art Bite: “Latimer Art Club: Yesterday and Today,” on Friday, July 30 at noon.  Discover the origins of the Latimer Art Club with Eileen Fuller, the Club’s current Art Show chairperson. Admission: $10; freee for members.

A Closer Look: “Landscapes in Nevada,” First Fridays at 1 p.m. from Aug 6 to March 4, 2022. Experience a guided tour of The Latimer School. Docents will host conversations centered around landscapes in Nevada and beyond. Free with museum admission or membership.

Lecture: Ann M. Wolfe talks about “Art, Nature and the Founding of the Nevada Museum of Art” on Friday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. Ann M. Wolfe, the Andrea and John C. Deane Family Senior Curator and Deputy Director, recalls the history of the Nevada Museum of Art. With an emphasis on the museum’s early ties to the San Francisco Bay Area, the Bohemian Club, Fallen Leaf Lake, and the University of Nevada, Wolfe will review the roots of the Latimer Art Club from the 1910s to the critical role the club played in the founding of the museum. Admission, $10; free to members.

 Jack Bacon on The Latimer School: Bacon’s talk is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 9, at 6 p.m.  Jack Bacon an art specialist and co-curator of the exhibition, will share stories of the Latimer Art Club’s founding members, many of whom came from pioneer families as far afield as Tuscarora, Virginia City, and Carson City. Admission, $10; free to members.


The Latimer Tree” by Minerva Pierce, not dated. Watercolor on paper, 14 x 11 inches, on loan from a private collection.

Exhibit sponsors

The exhibition’s lead sponsor is the Wayne L. Prim Foundation; a major sponsor is the Bretzlaff Foundation. Other sponsors include: The Thelma B. and Thomas P. Hart Foundation; Sandy Raffealli; Bill Pearce Motors; The Phil and Jennifer Satre Family Fund at the Community Foundation of Western Nevada; and Jenny and Garrett Sutton/Corporate Direct. Supporting sponsors include: The Chica Charitable Gift Fund; Michael and Tammy Dermody; Dickson Realty; Irene Drews in memory of J. George Drews, a watercolor painter and longtime instructor in the Nevada Museum of Art E. L. Cord Museum School; Edgar F. Kleiner’ Sierra Integrated Systems; and Betsy and Henry Thumann.

Additional support was provided by: Enid Oliver, Financial Consultant & Wealth Manager. JURIED EXHIBITION In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum has organized The Latimer Art Club: Celebrating 100 Years – A Juried Exhibition from July 10 to September 1, 2021. This year, the Latimer Art Club celebrates its 100th anniversary. To honor this important milestone, the Museum presents a juried exhibition of present-day Latimer Art Club members.

Several other events  commemorating the museum’s 90th anniversary are planned in the coming months.

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